Anuj Sahai, Vice President – Of Customer Experience Products at Walmart Global Tech India, talks about how the customer is evolving and the changes that have taken place as a result of the pandemic. A lot of the digital adoption has become permanent, while the future is pure omnichannel. He also talks about how the enterprise has had to respond to the post-pandemic changing behaviors. Edited excerpts from the video interview.
From a customer experience perspective, the pandemic has influenced customer behavior. There was social distancing. Customers are splurging more at home. Everything we do at Walmart is with the customer at the center. We had started on a journey of building an omnichannel experience a few years back. Fortunately for us, the organization was ready when the pandemic hit.
Curbside pickup and ship from store
A lot of the capabilities that we had like curbside pickup or ship from store, suddenly all those experiences became the norm, as customers started to evolve and adapt and drive it. The enterprise then had to respond to these changing behaviors.
When you think about retail, customer experience is not just what the customer sees. Everything from the assortment that we carry, the merchandising, the pricing, the supply chain… everything needs to get configured and rejigged in a way that meets these customers. The technology cascade is through the enterprise. Even pricing is now technology-enabled along with how efficiently we can buy and procure.
Years’ worth of changes happened in months
There was a very high adoption of digital channels to shop and ours was no different. The digital adoption which probably would have happened over the next couple of years got accelerated and happened in a few months. With the customers’ comfort with digital technologies and payments, a lot of that adoption has become permanent. How it will manifest in terms of behavior is evolving.
As customers come back to stores, even though it is in the early stages, we may see potentially the customers using more in the store to identify and locate products. Even the physical shopping experience could potentially evolve. The New Normal will be somewhere in the middle but certainly, the digital adoption is here to stay and that will drive both the physical and e-commerce channels.
It’s all about pure omnichannel
For me and specifically for us at Walmart, the future is omnichannel. AI, augmented, VR, etc have some small capabilities to support the end journey but the customer doesn’t need to get up in the morning and I am going to e-commerce or a store. She gets up in the morning and wants to say toast, eggs, and fruit. Ultimately, we need to be able to deliver that in the most seamless and transparent manner.
Going forward, you will add capabilities that will enable these digital experiences more and more. But I also think even on the store side digital adoption is also going to go up: Maybe identifying items in the store or store maps. So, what I believe is that pure omnichannel is the future of retail and that’s what we are super focused on at Walmart.
(Catch the complete video interview on the Dataquest YouTube channel)
Anuj Sahai is Vice President – Customer Experience Products, Walmart Global Tech India
By Sunil Rajguru